She was staying in a small conference facility southeast of Sheffield and in the heart of the Peak District. The bar was empty apart from the Latvian barman. A wall mounted TV was in the corner, but Afarin was reading a book. She was slowly drinking a non- alcoholic elderflower spritzer.
A man came into the bar, a well-dressed Pakistani with a neatly sculpted beard. He ordered a drink from the barman and turned round, leaning on the bar. He saw Afarin, grinned, and sauntered over with a glass of red wine. He had the typical swagger of young, Pakistani men. He was good looking, and didn’t he know it?
He sat down opposite her, gave a silent toast, and sipped his wine, “You must be the lucky girl who will be my wife. I am relative undemanding in my needs and can pencil you in for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. From then on you can rest, let your body recharge its batteries.”
“Why don’t you sit down? How considerate you are. What is your name, you answer to, a maiden’s dreams?”
He looked round the empty bar, “The name’s Farooqi, Ahram Farooqi, licenced to kill you… Eventually.”
“Oh, so you’re the plod?”
“Do you mean the elite SO10, whose role is to provide specially trained officers and resources for cases requiring covert policing and evidence gathering?”
“I’ve had the pleasure of operating with you cowboys before. London 2005 where I was covered with the blood and brain matter, when you trigger happy tossers shot Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes who was mistakenly identified as a suspected suicide bomber.”
This seemed to take the wind out of Farooqi’s sails, “Do you want to tell me your name? I prefer to know who I’m being insulted by.”
“My name is Afarin Khan and I work for the Special Reconnaissance Regiment as well as MI6.”
“So, you’re Army?”
“No,” she explained patiently, “I’m in the RAF. The SRR is open to all branches of the Armed Forces who meet the criteria. What do you do, Mr Farooqi? How would you prefer that I addressed you?”
“Farooqi is fine. I infiltrate organisations that the State and government class as being a threat to society. I think both you and I will find out more tomorrow. I’m sorry, we seem to have got off to a bad start. You are exceptionally beautiful, and I tend to cover my insecurities by letting my mouth run off by itself. Please accept my apologies.”
She looked at him to see if he was taking the Micky, but he looked sincere, “Compliment and apology both accepted. Drinking wine is not particularly Islamic, Farooqi.”’
“You should see the crap I’ve had to eat and drink when I’m on a case. The environmental terrorist lunatics are the worst and I think I hate them the most of all the nut jobs that are out there. It’s only a matter of time before the bastards start blowing up people. Perhaps then the fucking useless, communist home secretary will do something about them.
“I hate them, so certain of what is right, so liberal until someone disagrees with them. Those hateful prigs that come from their lovely mummy and daddies’ home, stupid, misguided and always ready to pay Tamara and Tarquin’s bail.
Oh, I’m so sorry, the whole thing winds me up Afarin or Ms Khan?”
“It’s such a welcome change to deal with Jihadi lunatics. I decided to bin the religious crap because suddenly, it didn’t mean anything, and I saw all the misery Islam and other religions have caused since their inception. So, I cope by drinking a little wine, smoking the odd joint when I’m on a job, to stay in part.”
Afarin looked at him and detected real angst. That swaggering macho routine was a mask to his doubt and insecurities. She smiled at him.
“You and I have more in common than you imagine, Farooqi.”
She was surprised that he had opened up so soon in their relationship.
“What do you reckon we’ll do tomorrow?” he asked her.
“I think we’ll be given our watchlist and area of operations, cover stories and targets.”
“Can I get you a drink?” he asked.
“Yes please, non-alcoholic.”
“And there was me slagging off Islam. Sorry if you’re a believer in the one, true faith.”
She smiled at him, “I’m not. I don’t drink on a job.
They chatted the evening away and he soon had her laughing about the stupidity of environmental warriors, or as he called them, “Eco-Nutters.”
“And they are such dirty bastards, leaving their shit and other rubbish for someone else to pick up. They are so used to Mummy tidying up their rooms.”
He asked her where she had been and the job they were doing, glossing over her time in Afghanistan. Since they were going to be sharing a close life together, she told him about Basra and the final attack by the Iranians.
“And you killed them?”
“Yes, I had to. The shotgun made a terrible mess of their heads.”
“My God! How many did you…?”
“I wasn’t counting,” she told him, “We were shooting our way out of trouble. We just had to get out of there.”
“That rather puts my experiences of soap-dodging eco-warriors and animal rights lunatics in the shade.”
They continued to chat until the bar closed and Farooqi stood up stiffly, “Well that’s it until tomorrow, unless you’d like a nightcap?”
Afarin gave him a good old-fashioned look.
“I’ll take that as “not until I get to know you.” You can’t blame me for trying unless I’ve deeply offended you.”
“I worked with the SAS for six months. You have not offended me any more than being asked to get my tits out for the boys.”
“I can’t blame them. Goodnight, Afarin.”
She went to her room, got undressed and lay on the bed. Whatever their time together brought them, it was going to be interesting. She got into bed and fell asleep.
The next morning when she woke, it was dark outside. She had a shower and went down for breakfast, which was a buffet loaded with pork sausages and bacon. She took a couple of the fried eggs, toast, and a spoonful of tinned tomatoes. He arrived, waved, and went to help himself to the buffet. When he came and sat with her, she looked at his plate.
“Good morning, Afarin. I trust you slept well and were not a fever of lust, thinking about me? You are after all, only human.”
“It’s the biggest temptation for both Muslims and Jews.”
“What is?” he asked.
“The smell of cooking bacon, forbidden yet fragrant.”
“Well, you better get used to it. I’ll be expecting a full cooked breakfast when we are man and wife.”
The look she gave him could curdle milk, “What do you have such an overexaggerated opinion of yourself, Farooqi? Is it because really, you’re a virgin and you’re overcompensating?”
He looked at her and for once he was being sincere. He said quietly: “No. I’ve had to have sex with such filthy old skanks on my jobs, to avoid detection. Really, I hanker for some pretty girl to look after, not a dirty climate protester or some crack-whore in London.”
The eggs were overdone, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Farooqi. I’m neither pretty nor need looking after.”
“You sell yourself short. I couldn’t believe it when I first saw you last night. I do know where the lines are, but you can’t blame me for skirting around the edge. We will be sharing our lives and living in close proximity.”
“SO10 is a Met set up. Why are you operating in South Yorkshire?” she asked.
“Because MI5 have reason to believe that elements of the South Yorkshire force have gone bad. They won’t investigate cases of young girls being trafficked by our lot and some actively collude with the rape and abuse of these girls. In other words, they’re in on it.
Her breakfast was practically inedible, and she pushed the plate away, “I’d starve if I had to eat here for any length of time.”
“What about you? You’re not here purely to keep me company.” He asked.
“We’re after three men who are on the MI6 watch list and their names have been passed to MI5. They want me to find them as they’ve recently returned to the UK after being abroad. This is as good a place as any to start. I think we’ll learn more when the spooks get here.”
After breakfast they read the papers and he went outside for a cigarette. Afarin was pleased he smoked as well, because it meant she wouldn’t have to put up with nagging. Little things like that could drive a wedge between people living together in close proximity.
At 10:00 Bartlett arrived and came looking for them. He hugged Afarin and shook Farooqi’s hand.
“The chaps from “The Box” will be here any time soon. I will introduce you, Afarin, then be on my way. They should let me know what’s happening. You have my number in case of any major problems. I’m off to set up the room.” And he went to leave then suddenly spoke to Afarin, “Sorry, I forgot to tell you. Jean-Claude sends his regards and asks you to look after yourself.”
As he went off, Farooqi looked at her, “What’s the “Box?”
“It’s MI6 slang for MI5. Box, or Box 500, after its official wartime address of PO Box 500; its current address is PO Box 3255, London SW1P 1AE.”
“How do you know that?”
“An MI6 officer told me.”
Farooqi somehow knew that this MI6 officer was very dear to her and decided not to pry. A car came up to the conference centre and who men got out with suitcases. They waved to Afarin and Farooqi.
“Just let us sweep the room, setup and then we’ll bring you in.”
They looked at each other and waited. There was nothing else to do. Finally, Bartlett opened the door and addressed Afarin and Farooqi.
“Could you come in please.”
The two from the Box introduced themselves as Begley and Deeks. Bartlett made his excuses and left, while Begley went outside the room to watch the door. They had their own slide projector, and it was projected onto the wall. Afarin and Farooqi sat down to be briefed, smiling as Deeks had a last minute faff with the equipment. It seemed as though Deeks was ready to start the briefing.
“Good morning, Ms Khan and Officer Farooqi. Hopefully after this briefing you will know why you’re here and have a clear idea of your mission. I’ll start with an overview and then get down to specifics. In our country there are 40,000 people on the watch list who think it is acceptable to consider murdering people. It tells you the scale of the problem. Nine-tenths of the people on that list are Islamist extremists. Forget about the myth of so-called right-wing terrorists, the government and police like to cling on to. It consists of a few lonely, frustrated virgins in their bedrooms, railing against perceived injustice. Some are dangerous and they do kill people, but they don’t leave their fingerprints of their websites visited and neo-Nazi chatrooms.
“What we are talking about are people who not only hate us, but they also hate everything about our society and what we stand for. Our way of life, our children, make no mistake, they want to kill us. They are trained in bomb making and counter surveillance, crafts that many have been taught in Iraq, Nigeria and the training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We know about so-called Pakistani grooming gangs but the reports from places like Rotherham and Oxford are just the tip of the iceberg. Every single town or city with a large Muslim community, reports the rape and trafficking of children on an industrial scale. Be in no doubt, this constitutes war by other means. Our politicians, the media and the judiciary are too cowardly to do anything to stop this and we suspect the police are also complicit. Worst case, they may be taking backhands, but they have certainly done nothing since the Jay Report of 2004. We ask that you, Officer Farooqi to ascertain how complicit the South Yorkshire Police Service actually is.
“To that end, we have infiltrated an agent into the South Yorkshire Police HQ. They will be passing information to you and hopefully you’ll be able to act on it. You’ll receive details and places of contact in another briefing tomorrow.
“You Ms Khan have a slightly different brief. The background concerning three individuals has been passed to us, from contacts overseas. We are interested in Parinoush Mahar and Daffi Hashmi, both of Pakistani heritage and living in northern England, probably Bradford. They were just names, nothing concrete to connect them with any plot. A third man, Gamal Kirmani is a well-known associate but there are no communications to link them. Kirmani is a frequent traveller to Brussels and the Molenbeek area. We’ve been passed this information from Vauxhall Cross while we keep an eye on Kirmani when he’s out of the country. They are clean skins.
“We know they are trying to organise a training camp in the Peak District and have operated overseas in Iraq. The reason they have come to our attention, agents have picked up on a potential jihadi attack on the Imperial War Museum in Manchester. We’re cross-referencing the suspects with the returning jihadi list. They seem quite inventive this shower, a suicide vest on a guide dog or even a drone attack.
“We have found you a position in a Halal food bank and café, which we hope is well sited and used for getting the feel of the local community. You will need a CV, which just so happens that we have prepared one for you. You will need to pass the interview and we’ve prepared a pack-up with likely asked questions. We have also provided a record of previous employment, should they decide to phone old firms where you are supposed to have worked. We don’t think they will.
“Officer Farooqi. We have arranged an interview for you in a distribution company on the outskirts of Bradford. The job is yours and you start work on Monday. There is always a large turnover of the unskilled at the distribution company.
“As you’ve probably realised, you’ll be living together as man and wife. You’ll be living in a terraced house that has been modified. The area isn’t too bad with shops and amenities close by. You will have one car for general use, with a second one permanently parked in a nearby garage forecourt if you need two cars. We will communicate with you by phone, once a week, with a monthly meeting once a month. We’ve prepared pack ups for you, and we would like you to study them for the next two days. Then the rest will be up to you. Relax tonight and start your study and plans of action tomorrow. Do you have any questions?”
Afarin and Farooqi looked at each other, “I don’t think so. I assume you can be contacted if we have any questions?”
“Only tomorrow, and then it will be a case of phoning our department. The number’s in the pack-up.”
The two of them left, digesting the task they had been given, “What do you think? Afarin asked him.
“Let’s meet up before dinner and we’ll discuss it over a drink. We’re too late for lunch now.”
Afarin lay thoughtfully on her bed and had a nap, the army way, sleep while you can. She got up, changed, and went through to the bar, where he was already waiting for her. It appeared they were the only two staying at the centre, but the Latvian barman was there as well. It suddenly dawned on her that perhaps he was a spook, tasked with keeping his eye on them. He had an elderflower spritzer waiting for her on the table when she came in.
“Good evening, Farooqi.”
“Afarin. We’re the only ones here. I had a look around this afternoon.”
Afarin sipped her drink, “Have you ever done any work with Begley and Deeks before, Farooqi?”
“No. All our tasking is received in-house, and the officer selected. The hardest part can be being accepted by the group you’re trying to infiltrate. It can sometimes take a year before they fully accept you.”
“What do you feel about the mission?”
He thought about it for a few moments, “I think it’s over-engineered, too complex. They are going to parachute us into a Muslim community and expect us to be accepted right from the start. You’ve got a nice, middle-class job and you’re supposed to be married to a labourer.
“We normally get out taskings and the rest is up to us. It makes it too clunky to have our plan of action scrutinised. I’m also concerned about the plod in Yorkshire HQ. What will he bring to the party? You must have concerns as well.”
“I do. Please don’t get me wrong, but I normally operate as a loner. I think it is stupid to assume that the local community will accept two total strangers, who suddenly turn up with jobs and a nice terrace house. This food bank come café is a stupid idea. Do you think the women who work there are going to start gossiping about the local jihadists?”
They went into dinner, which was much better than breakfast, and forgot about their mission and the pitfalls. He proved to be good company and he had her laughing at his undercover exploits. He saw himself as a hapless undercover plod. She saw him as someone who has seen and lived the nasty side of life and used humour as a shield.
They chatted for an hour and then Afarin made her apologies and went to bed. She mapped out a plan of action in her mind then read a book for a while and went to sleep.
The next morning, they went through the plans with Deeks who seemed satisfied. Afarin went through her fabricated CV and the questions they would ask in the interviews. Farooqi was told of his first meeting with the undercover police officer in the HQ and the point for the first contact. It was impossible to second-guess what would happen and they would have to react to any situation that presented itself. Deeks finally wished them good luck, gave them two sets of car keys and the house keys and then went, reminding them he could be contacted through the department. Afarin would leave her car parked at the conference centre and they were ready to go the next morning.
They lived together if not as husband and wife, more brother and sister. Afarin got the job in the food bank after a perfunctory interview and Farooqi worked in a distribution centre. The developed rituals such as bathroom times, a shared meal they would take in turns to cook. Most evenings were spent reading or with Afarin frantically trying to take up needle work, from a book from the library. She would also have the weekly ritual of shooting Farooqi down when he made his weekly pass at her.
The unfortunate thing was that Farooqi was both good looking and kind and considerate. Perhaps in different circumstances she might have considered going through to his room one night, but that would have been a disaster both for the mission and their relationship.
“You can’t blame me for trying,” he said after a robust put down.
“Did you ever do any police work while undercover or shag your way through a list of suspects?” she asked.
“You couldn’t begin to understand how dirty these women were, and I mean that in the cleanliness context, not the sexual.”
“And your problem is you are fastidiously clean,” she stated.
“How do you know?”
“By the amount of time you spend in the bathroom every morning.”
They also talked about his contact in the Police HQ.
“What’s she like?” Afarin asked him.
“Pretty nondescript. Hundreds are like her, just getting on with the job, but it’s a risky business, asking questions, yet not raising any suspicions. She’s a very sharp operator, but I think she is the one taking the risks.”
One day in late December, after a fruitless day in the food bank, she stopped off at a hardware store and bought a whetstone. When Farooqi came home he found her at the kitchen table with vegetable oil, sharpening her Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife. He looked at its sleek blackness as she concentrated on the point and two sides of the dagger.
“My God, now that is a knife. Can I hold it please?”
She handed the knife to him, by the long hilt.
“Have you ever used it in anger?”
He handed in back to her, “I’d better play nicely. Can you throw it?”
“Yes, although I’m not very good at it. And what’s the point? After you’ve thrown it, you don’t have a knife. Now I’ve shown you mine, where’s yours?”
“Upstairs in a shoebox under the bed. I’ll get it.”
He came back with an automatic in a shoulder holster and put it on the table. Afarin slid it out of the leather, “A Glock 17. I have the smaller version, the Glock 19 Compact. Not here, obviously.”
“Standard plod issue,” he told her.
Afarin picked it up, “Do you mind?” he shook his head.
She checked there was no magazine and pulled the top slide back, locking it. She checked inside the chamber that there were no rounds, then let the slide go forward. Then she pulled the slide back slightly and pressed down on the tabs located either side of the frame and separated the slide from the body of the weapon, then broke it down to its four main components for field stripping, the guide rod, recoil spring and then the barrel. He watched her deft fingers on the weapon and noticed she chewed her nails.
She peered down the barrel of the automatic, “When was the last time you cleaned this weapon?” He shrugged.
She took the wire brush on the rod and reamed the barrel several times, “This is where the shit accumulates.”
Next, she changed the brush for a flattened rod with a cut-out and using a patch and the cleaning solution, reamed the barrel inside and outside, until the patches were clean.
“Slide next,” she cleaned the slide rails and slide body with a patch of cleaning solution, same for the body of the weapon and magazine housing, “You can finish off with a Q-tip.” The last item to be cleaned were the magazines.
“You should take the rounds out of the magazine to avoid stressing the spring.” Finally, she lightly oiled all the parts, leaving them in neat order on the table, “That’s it cleaned and oiled.”
He looked at her, “Afarin, will you marry me?”
Her beautiful eyes could become flinty and cold, “Farooqi, would you close the kitchen door please and turn off the lights in here?”
“Is this some kind of foreplay?” Intrigued he did as she asked, and the room was in total darkness. He heard metal on metal with a final click.
“OK, lights on.”
Sitting on the table was the Glock. She had reassembled it under eight seconds in total darkness.
“Would you at least consider having my babies?”
With a warning stare, she held the slide open with the slide lock, and showed him the chamber, “This weapon is clear.” She put it back in its holster and smiled. He grinned at her and took the shoebox back upstairs, promising to clean it more regularly. She shook her head and put the knife away, sharpened, oiled and ready. That evening they watched TV, sitting at each end of the sofa. She really liked him, but not in the way he would have liked.
The days dragged on with no leads and Christmas was upon them. Despite their both being Muslims, they celebrated with a good meal of a takeaway and exchanged gifts, a beautiful silk pashmina for her and a Zippo engraved with the Metropolitan Police badge for him. After dinner they sat on the sofa, her legs up, leaning against him. It took him all his time to keep his hands off her. She described the sights and smells of Afghanistan, the icy water of streams tumbling down valleys and the rising sun, dusting the snow-topped mountains of the Hindu Kush with a pink blush. Rising from a narrow valley and looming over the confluence of the Hari and Jam Rivers, the Minaret of Jam was long believed to be an isolated monument. Excavations of looters’ holes at the site have revealed that the tower was once surrounded by a bustling capital. It is like an English folly, random and why the hell is it there? He concluded she had poetry in her soul.
“You’ve done all these things to serve your country. All I’ve ever done is to pretend to be someone else.” His voice sounded sad and almost ashamed.
She sat up, turned to face him and put her hand on his cheek, “They may be nothing to you, but someone thinks you’re good at it. We also serve.”
And then it was back to work and although he kept dutiful contact with their handlers, they had nothing yet. The weeks dragged on into months until his contact in the Police HQ told him about the abuse of white girls in a hotel that evening. Not expecting much, they staked out the area and waited. The car was parked in the Manningham area of Bradford, on a side street where they could watch the comings and goings at the budget hotel. At around 21:00 they had watched about twenty young, white girls, who were led inside from assorted BMWs and Mercedes. German vans with blacked-out windows were very popular as well, along with Southern Asian men with beards. The younger men had carefully sculpted facial hair, the older ones with longer beards.
She was crouched in the bushes when the first girls and their “escorts” arrived. She photographed all of the men’s faces and when they were inside the hotel, the car numberplates. She watched a police car drive slowly past where they had parked the car, stop at a dark van at the end of the road and one of the coppers got out to speak to whoever was in the van. She photographed both vehicles and thought this was very strange. She mentioned it to Farooqi when she was back at the car. He was thoughtful but shrugged.
“Probably nothing to worry about.”
They were listening to the radio when the ten-o-clock news came on. It was the usual litany of doom and gloom, and they were locked in this strange world.
There was nothing she could add, so she said nothing. Lilly Allen’s Smile came on the radio, and she turned it down.
“I was listening to that!”
“No, you weren’t, Farooqi and besides, it’s crap.”
“She’d still get it though.”
“And what would your dear mother say if you brought her home? She can’t even get in and out of a car without showing the world her perineum.”
“Good, isn’t it? My mother would probably say: Oh, Adeel, couldn’t you bring a nice Moslem girl home? And line me up for a trip to the old country. You could save me from that horror, Afrin. My aunts already think I’m gay.”
“A policeman’s lot is not a happy one,” She observed.
“So true. Are you going to take a few holiday snaps?”
“No. I did the last lot, it’s your turn this time.”
Farooqi sighed and reached into the back seats for the camera.
“Don’t forget to take the lens cap off.”
He raised his eyes and opened the driver door. He had forgotten to switch off the interior light and the inside of the car was flooded with light, destroying her night vision. She switched it off hurriedly.
“Sorry,” He said leaning into the car, “I forgot to…”
The van hit him at around 40mph, smashing his body against the front and taking the driver’s door with it. Afarin was shocked at the sudden visceral violence. She tried to get out of the passenger’s door, but the impact had jammed it. She put out a distress call on the police frequency, but the radio seemed dead. She saw men leave the van and run towards the car and she tried to reach her knife but couldn’t get to it. She slid across and felt for the keys in the ignition and started the engine, but they dragged her out.
Now she was fighting for her life with feet, knees, elbows, and her feet. They repeatedly hit her on the side of her head with a fire extinguisher to subdue her and she went down. Unconscious they dragged her to the van, cable tied her and threw her in the back, where she was subjected to a violent sexual assault.
She blocked the ferocious and depraved events in the workshop from her conscious and became aware of being outside, heading for a road, her side in agony and feeling lightheaded through blood loss. Every move sent a shaft of pain shooting through her thorax and she collapsed on the road.
Nothing left to give.
She was in a car. Blood everywhere. A man with a kindly voice was talking to her.
They were outside a hospital, and he left her there, bastard!
Medics and a trolly and she was wheeled inside, leaving a trail of blood.
Bright lights in the ER. Undressed to be examined by a team.
“I can’t tell where this blood is coming from. The stab wound must have cut an artery.”
“She has several blunt trauma injuries to the head, a laceration to her left side, and avulsion injuries to both wrists. She has also been sexually assaulted by the insertion of an object to the vagina.”
“What the hell has happened to this poor girl?”
“No, I can’t stop it,” the Registrar said, “she’s bleeding out. Page Mr Brahmins.”
The on-call consultant came into the room that resembled an abattoir. They were sploshing around in blood.
“I can’t stop the bleeding.”
“Have a theatre prepped and ten units of blood.”
More bright lights. The anaesthetist looking down at her.
“If you can’t find or reach the bleed, increase your access.”
A catheter in the back of the hand. A drip for blood.
“Count backwards from ten for me.”
Her voice was hoarse, “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Now what happens?”
“She must be under when I start cutting into her side.”
“Any more and I will never bring her round.”
“Then she dies. Your choice.”
The anaesthetist gave her more and watched her eyes carefully. They were wide, terrified but so beautiful. They glazed and she was gone. He closed them and taped them shut, “She’s under.”
“Good, now get the blood units into her, one after the other. If you have an internal bleed, you must find out where it’s coming from. Debride the wound please, right in there.”
For the next seven hours they battled to keep Afarin alive, while the consultant enlarged the wound, “She has been stabbed by a long, serrated blade, probably a hunting knife. A sadistic stab with a sawing motion to cause maximum internal damage. She was conscious when she came here. She wants to live. Let’s give her a chance.”
Surgical intervention may be required but it depends on what organ systems are affected by the wound and the extent of the damage. It is important for care providers to thoroughly check the wound site in as much as a laceration of an artery often results in delayed complications sometimes leading to death. In cases where there is no suspicion of bleeding or infection, there is no known benefit of surgery to correct any present injuries. Typically, a surgeon will track the path of the weapon to determine the anatomical structures that were damaged and repair any damage they deem necessary. Surgical packing of the wounds is generally not the favoured technique to control bleeding as it can be less useful than fixing the directly affected organs. In severe cases when homeostasis cannot be maintained the use of damage control surgery may be utilized.
“Can I have more light please. Wash the wound. Ahh, I’ve got it, the duodenal artery and the hepatic artery. Vascular suture set please. This poor girl. I’m determined that she will live, God willing.”
Time was meaningless as Afarin existed in that world beyond consciousness. Thoughts swirled through her head, a sad childhood, four men in the back of a Land Rover, so brutally hard, so masculine, and so kind. The West Bank torture chamber, Heyfa’s beautiful body next to hers, fighting Dan and those strange words of Hoffman, before she left. I know you existed and one day you will have a family. They will be indifferent to the stars because they know you exist. What did he mean?
Pain was her constant companion. The stab wound she felt deep inside, itching, and driving her mad. The burning laceration of the other side, the beating with the iron bar and there was the heavy, drawing pain from her vagina.
And the guilt. Farooqi’s mangled body, just dumped on the road and she tried to cry the tears of survivor’s guilt.
Am I dead? Is this what death is, an eternity tormented by bad thoughts?
Oh Jean-Claude, I miss you so much.
It was Alan Bartlett first as she was half conscious and jabbered at him. She provided enough information between the babble for him to pinpoint the workshop and a forensic team from the Met to sweep it. They found blood, chains and manacles and an electric welder still plugged in. There were two bodies, one dead of strangulation, the other stabbed in the head. Of a blinded man, there was no sign.
She was asleep, peaceful, and serene, with the swollen head and marks of a beating. He looked at her and was heartbroken.
There was a benevolent presence in the room. She smelled him; he didn’t use aftershave or cologne, but he liked his expensive shave soap and moisturiser. She reached out a hand and he took it. Jean-Claude was sitting in the chair next to the bed and waited. Later she opened her eyes and looked at him.
“Why have they sent an arsehole like you to look after me?”
Jean Claude stood up and leaned over her. She could feel the weight of his holstered automatic. He moved a strand of hair away from her eye and gently kissed her.
“Hello, Afarin. I’ve been wondering where you were, and I missed you.” His voice was thick, as though he would weep for her.
“He kept me safe, Jean-Claude. St Michael.”
She burst into tears, knowing he would look after her now.
© Blown Periphery 2022